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Message from teacher James at the Thai/Burma border

Average: 2.6 (7 votes)

Hello everyone,

It’s teacher James here writing from the Thai / Burma border amidst floods and fighting.

For those of you who didn’t know I took some time out from teaching with EC Brighton English language school to come to work with Burmese refugees.

Essentially I am on a 3 month placement with the objective of training the Burmese refugee teachers how to best approach the difficult job of teaching English with little or no resources to hand (see pics of classrooms).

After planning and training sessions I also teach general English to the teachers and then divide the rest of my time observing their classes and providing support and feedback about their teaching.

I have thoroughly enjoyed coming to this side of the world and working with teachers and children who simply have no idea of what the outside world is and of the opportunities and facilities that we take for granted in our own countries, and at EC.

Two of my schools have no running water and no electricity and all materials are donated by missionary groups.

Learning by rote is the name of the day and my first memory is entering the classroom and saying ‘Hello, my name is James’ at which point 30 eager and beaming faces replied ‘HELLO, MY NAME IS JAMES’ priceless…

Life is tough for them and they study, play, eat and live at school. Don’t you all wish you had such a holistic education?

Still I have made some good progress so far, inbetween army raids and tropical storms, when rain really does delay play, I have found these people to have hearts of both gold and steel as they are giving and kind in the most adverse of situations.

I had a trying moment when we were talking about family and one teacher explained that all her relatives were dead, killed by the Burmese army, her house was then burnt to the ground ( I never had the gaul to ask her what she had experienced herself).

So it is a bit of a reminder that I have to be sensitive in different ways, she smiled as she spoke to me but she wasn’t smiling in her eyes and you could see that war leaves the deepest of scars.

On lighter notes, when we talked about ‘fast food’ I was asked what it was. I continued … Well, you know McDonalds? ‘No’ .. well you know Pizza Hut? ‘No’ … KFC? ‘No’ (I was now finally having a religious epiphany that there really was a God) So I ventured… fast food is like having someone cooking rice for you and then you take it home and eat it… ‘Oooohhh , so why don’t you cook it yourself?’

I quickly moved on to the far easier and more comprehensive task of teaching the difference between objective and reflexive pronouns!

What has made the teaching of these lessons were invaluable materials sent to me by Caron (Director of Studies at EC Brighton) and Jes (Centre Director at EC Brighton), thanks to them I am able to continue to use Total English and all the resources that accompany it to teach my classes to the teachers.

Without these I would have felt it difficult to retain a structure and to be able to leave the teachers with something that they can continue to self study when I have to finally leave the project.

So in part this blog is a big, big thank you to those at EC Brighton for their support and understanding of my current project and of the needs of the Burmese/Karen out here.

I also hope that for those of you who read this blog that you might be able to give some thought to the plight of the tribal minorities that are coming out of Burma.

Following the ‘elections’ on Nov 7th, I hope some of you have heard the release of Aung San Suu Kyii, the imprisoned leader of the opposition party in Burma.

We also have a website http://www.burmaeducationpartnership.org/ where you can learn more about the situation.

Well, good luck everyone with your studies and hope to see some of you again sometime. And again a big THANK YOU to EC for all your support.

Best of luck,


Read James' original post here

  • 1 - James will work in the border region for many years.

  • 2 - James is teaching teachers and students.

  • 3 - The people know a lot about life outside Burma.

  • 4 - Schools buy the materials they need.

  • 5 - James saw the army trying to kill a teacher's family.

  • 6 - James is cynical about fast-food culture.

  • 7 - EC Brighton donated teaching materials.